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GNU is Not Unix

GNU Releases Free Documentation License 95

Bananenrepublik writes "The GNU Project has released the GNU Free Documentation License. It is meant 'to assure everyone the effective freedom to copy and redistribute it [the documentation], with or without modifying it, either commercially or noncommercially.'"
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GNU Releases Free Documentation License

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  • I think this new license can only be a good thing. There is not much awareness in the community of the FSF's position on free documentation. The existence of this license will hopefully cause people to consider the issue, and decide for themselves what they believe, rather than just being unaware of the issue.
  • Copyright (c) YEAR YOUR NAME.
    Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.0 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with the Invariant Sections being LIST THEIR TITLES, with the Front-Cover Texts being LIST, and with the Back-Cover Texts being LIST. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".


    What a novel license.. Kudos to RMS and the rest of the GNU crew!

    EraseMe
  • by PigleT ( 28894 ) on Friday March 10, 2000 @03:14AM (#1212626) Homepage
    First thoughts: Excellent stuff! I'm glad to have "the GPL of document processing" nicely laid out.
    I also approve muchly of "Opaque formats include PostScript, PDF, proprietary formats that can be read and edited only by proprietary word processors, SGML or XML for which the DTD and/or processing tools are not generally available, and the machine-generated HTML produced by some word processors for output purposes only." I'm not convinced about some of the layout specs ("first page", "title page", "adjacent pages" - can't we have a one-paragraph "this is GDL'd" with pointer to appendix Z?) It also needs to define "compilation copyright" - what is it? Is it Yet Another American thing? (I thought that around these parts, anything you "write" was automatically copyrighted... confusing.) If the GPL is but one open-source license for software, is there an "open-source" definition for documents? (How much is www.transparent-source.org going for? ;) Roll on w3c [w3c.org] and the DOM and any other transparent document models!
  • What a novel license.. Kudos to RMS and the rest of the GNU crew!

    Wow, very good you can read. Now go back and carry on where you left off, you've missed most of the license, like the bit that modified versions must be distributed under the same license as the original, which is presumably the whole point.
  • Ok so I can't write, I meant "like the bit that said modified versions must be distributed under the same license".
  • by Jonas Öberg ( 19456 ) <jonas@gnu.org> on Friday March 10, 2000 @03:22AM (#1212630) Homepage
    RMS just wrote in to say that there has been a few minor last-minute corrections to the license. I'm sorry that I do not have any more details at the moment, but please do not use this license just yet.
  • by Improv ( 2467 ) <pgunn01@gmail.com> on Friday March 10, 2000 @03:25AM (#1212632) Homepage Journal
    Is it just me, or does the Opaque/Transparent
    distinction seem too vague to be enforcable?
    The portion indicating that HTML is sometimes
    but not always opaque seems the best example of
    this, but overall the distinction seems to be
    problematic.
  • Note that someone can create their own non-free work, label it all "invariant", place it under the FDL and then combine it with your work to get a non-free derivative work. Anything directly derived from your sections remains free in the derivative work though. I suppose this is something like how the Lesser GPL works.

    Also note that untested licenses are at least as dangerous as untested software! You probably want to wait a while before actually *using* this license. Remember it is only version 1.0 and be careful.
  • I am glad the issue of readability of the document format is addressed. But I worry about the fine distinction between transparent and opaque.

    The line seems to be too arbitrarily drawn. Postscript is not transparent? That depends. I know quite a few Postscript hackers who can directly edit PS source without batting an eyelid. But PS generated by TeX itself, is really obscure largely becuase of all the font declarations.

    Is there a more satisfactory way to address this issue?

  • I think it can be agreed this is a Good Thing&#169. I'm curious if the GNU Doc copyleft will be limitted in use to HOW-TOs and such. Will Tim O'Reilly sell copylefted books knowing that the text can/will be available and "free" somewhere. He's done something of the sort with the Samba book IIRC.

    On the other hand perhaps this will act to increase mainstream doc pulication. Any publisher can stock the shelves with a complete work without author fees. I admit ignorance as to how heavily that cost weighs against total production.

    Oh, by the way:

    These comments copyright (c) 2000 Jeff Kustermann. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.0 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with the Invariant Sections being LIST THEIR TITLES, with the Front-Cover Texts being LIST, and with the Back-Cover Texts being LIST. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License"
  • by tilly ( 7530 ) on Friday March 10, 2000 @03:32AM (#1212637)
    Here is the problem.

    A publisher like O'Reilly produces technical manuals, under the license an author chooses. If a would-be author (who is about to do a lot of work) wants advice on licenses, O'Reilly is stuck between a rock and a hard place, they want to support open source, but they have to admit that the author will probably make more if it is not an open source license on the book. For some reason people like writing software but find documentation a chore.

    However what seems to work very well is if O'Reilly can work with the author to produce both a book and connected documentation. An example is Programming Perl where the online documentation started life as the book rearranged (and without the bad jokes). If the online documentation is exactly the book, people act as if the book is a cheap rip-off. If there is a clear division, then they don't.

    But if you do the above, the online documentation gets maintained and the dead tree version does not. At some point you need to re-synch. But what pair of licenses allows that?

    Personally I think that it would be good to create some sort of arrangement where the exact text and arrangement of a document may or may not be free, but it and all its derivatives must allow the technical information in them to be free to use in any other document using either of the pair of licenses. IOW O'Reilly or anyone else can come out with clearly differentiated books, but the information contained in such has to be available as free documentation.

    But the devil is in the details...

    Cheers,
    Ben
  • This is interesting:

    Translation is considered a kind of modification, so you may distribute translations of the Document under the terms of section 4. Replacing Invariant Sections with translations requires special permission from their copyright holders, but you may include translations of some or all Invariant Sections in addition to the original versions of these Invariant Sections. You may include a translation of this License provided that you also include the original English version of this License. In case of a disagreement between the translation and the original English version of this License, the original English version will prevail.

    Does anyone see any true sense to this clause? We still have to refer back to the original document in order to stick to the license, so I would imagine this would just make things more complicated for such projects as the LDP when they start moving towards more sophisticated language support.

    EraseMe
  • This Troll is protceted under the GNU FDL. Feel free to use this troll as you wish, so long as you include this licence and credit to it's original author, me. If you release any troll based on this one, you also must release it under the GNU FDL, and credit must be given. In addition, if reading this troll inspires you to write a troll of your own, credit must also be given to the original author, me. If someone asks your opinion of trolling, trolls in general, this troll, particular Trolls and thier work, credit must again be given to me. By accepting this licence, which you did inadvertantly by reading the first sentance (to quote the latin, "I 0wn j00!"), you accept that in your mind, heart and actions, the name gnarphlager is synonymous with trolling, and this is a Good Thing. You accept that trolling is a vaild form of expression, and you look forward to and enjoy all trolls. You accept that gnarphlager is your one and only true god, and you acknowledge no other gods, lest gnarphlager informs you of thier existance. Text of the Troll follows:

    The Troll:

    Richard Stallman and I used to eat cheese together. Ah, those were the days, back when the internet itself was a wild and Darkly Darkly Wood. But then he ate MY goat, and I wasn't too happy about that. So we don't talk as much any more, but we're still on friendly terms when we see each other.

    thankyoutheend.

    Copyright 2000, by gnarphlager under the GNU FDL. For terms of this licence, see above
  • You forgot to fill in the invariant, front-cover, and back-cover text.....

    Grtz, Jeroen

    These comments copyright (c) 2000 Jeroen Vreeken. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.0 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with the Invariant Sections being 'comment', with the Front-Cover Texts being 'Re:Any publishers care to comment?', and with the Back-Cover Texts being 'Grtz, Jeroen'. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License"

  • Just out of curiousity, was this read/edited by a lawyer to make it legally ironclad? Seems straightforward enough, just like the GPL, but just curious as to how well it can stand up in court.
  • Touche'

    I wonder if a /. shorthand will evolve for an "understood" GPL'ed comment. CmdrTaco will have to insert a link something like: /. comment copyleft definition [slashdot.org] so we can just include it at the bottom of a post.

  • I've speed read the whole deal and find it seems to be lacking some key stuff:

    1. Excerpts. What if a print magazine is doing an article on Widgets, and wants to quote two paragraphs from the GDL'd Widgets Manual. Is it possible? Does the Magazine have to GDL itself? GDL that article? Since the magazine has a circulation of >100 does that have an impact?

    2. Private use. Some guy wants to take a whole GDL document, modify it with his comments and give it to the 115 people in his lecture class. Does he also have to give them floppies since the distribution is > 100?

    3. Inclusions. Some guy is writing a GDL'd document and wants to include a longish section of a non-GDL'd document. Is this illegal, as it would be with code under GPL? Suppose I want to quote a large chunk of text that is genuinely public domain. Does the license now infect that text in other places?

    I was never a massive fan of GPL, although it has its uses. I think GDL will have its uses too, but it is a minority license suitable only for a certain set of technical documentation.
  • Aw, I am disappointed. Why couldn't they put the FDL on the FDL?!

    From the document:
    Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

    This is certainly not allowed by the FDL...


    Lars
    __

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 10, 2000 @03:56AM (#1212645)
    The FSF suggested model of making money out of software is to give away the software, but charge for support (if you like). Now, what is the FSF model of making money from writing documentation?

    You give the documentation away, and you make money by...? By what? Support of the documentation? That is, you get paid for adapting, modifying, and or re-writing the documentation? I don't think this works.

    I'd really like to see the incentive model for writing free documentation. Programmers do free software for fun and fame. That's their compensation. Writing documentation, however, is not fun, and also doesn't give one any brownie points in the community. Writing documentation is just plain hard work. What's the compensation for that work?

    Also, book writing (even large books) is still a one-person show (as opposite to software writing). And if the book you write is good, you can easily make some money out of it. So what is the incentive to give it away? You get credit for software by the community. As a documentation writer, no one even remembers your name in the community. So going to a traditional publisher seems a more natural way for one, in terms of money, as well as fame. And if you don't trust traditional publishers (or don't find one), you can still publish your work yourself.

  • As a documentation writer, no one even remembers your name in the community.

    You never heard of any of the 'great' writers in history, not even one?
    People who write good are usually good rememberd. Maybe isn't as much the case for just documentation but someone who writes good documentation will also get known!

    Grtz, Jeroen

  • 1. Excerpts. What if a print magazine is doing an article on Widgets, and wants to quote two paragraphs from the GDL'd Widgets Manual. Is it possible? Does the Magazine have to GDL itself? GDL that article? Since the magazine has a circulation of >100 does that have an impact?

    Easiest way might be to contact the original author and ask for permission. The author holds the copyright, and no one in the world can deny the author the right to release (part of) his/her work under a different license (has happened with GPL's software too, e.g. Ghostscript).

    2. Private use. Some guy wants to take a whole GDL document, modify it with his comments and give it to the 115 people in his lecture class. Does he also have to give them floppies since the distribution is > 100?

    The GDL says so, yes. Same thing as with GPLed software. The license grants redistribution, but requires to follow the rules.

    3. Inclusions. Some guy is writing a GDL'd document and wants to include a longish section of a non-GDL'd document. Is this illegal, as it would be with code under GPL? Suppose I want to quote a large chunk of text that is genuinely public domain. Does the license now infect that text in other places?

    The GDL has the same virus-like behavior as the GPL license for software. And like the GPL prevents the inclusion of e.g. BSD licensed software in a GPL software, the GDL prevents the same for including documentation. Not a too clever move from the FSF.

  • The GDL has the same virus-like behavior as the GPL license for software. And like the GPL prevents the inclusion of e.g. BSD licensed software in a GPL software, the GDL prevents the same for including documentation. Not a too clever move from the FSF.
    The GPL doesn't prevent the inclusion of BSD licensed software in GPL software, it's the other way around. (The GPL prevents inclusion of GPL code in BSD software). BSD allows you to redistribute under a new license, for instance the GPL. That's why they call the GPL a virus: if you include GPL code in a BSD program, it's not illegal, but the program (in its entirety) can only be legally distributed under the GPL. By "BSD", btw, I mean the new BSD license. What is more precisely called Xfree-style.

    As long as I'm posting, regarding "quot[ing] two paragraphs from the GDL'd Widgets Manual": this is what is called "fair use"; copyright restrictions do not apply to small snippets of a large document.

  • Excerpts. What if a print magazine is doing an article on Widgets, and wants to quote two paragraphs from the GDL'd Widgets Manual. Is it possible? Does the Magazine have to GDL itself? GDL that article? Since the magazine has a circulation of >100 does that have an impact?
    The magazine would not need special permission, as the quote would be "fair use" under copyright law. The situation is -- seen from the viewpoint of the Magazine -- identical to books under an ordinary proprietary license. No permission is needed to quote short, relevant pieces from these either.
    Private use. Some guy wants to take a whole GDL document, modify it with his comments and give it to the 115 people in his lecture class. Does he also have to give them floppies since the distribution is > 100?
    Making 115 copies are unblikely to be considered fair use, so he would have to make the modified book available to the student in electronic form.
    Inclusions. Some guy is writing a GDL'd document and wants to include a longish section of a non-GDL'd document. Is this illegal, as it would be with code under GPL? Suppose I want to quote a large chunk of text that is genuinely public domain. Does the license now infect that text in other places?
    It will not affect the text in other places (like the GPL doesn't infect code in other places). That is copyright law again.

    Including public domain text should be safe, but I'm not sure about other licenses. It would be ironic if you could not include GPL'ed code (beyond fair use) in a GDL'ed manual.


  • The distinction between machine-generated PS would probably be resolved the same way the distinction between machine and human generated HTML would be.

  • Its my understanding that JMS was well off when he started his crusade and had proper legal assistance when the original GPL came out. Now his little .org has quite a bit of clout and I don't think for a second he would pull off something like this with out lots of good lawyers involved.
  • Damn, wish I hadn't posted, I'd have moderated you up. Anyway, I obviously can't speak for the FSF, but I really don't think they're about providing "incentive" or business models -- that's ESR and "open source". FSF makes its money not by providing support, but by selling CD's of GNU and other free software, and t-shirts (and donations). The FSF is more worried about offering complete flexibility to the users of software than incentive for the original author to write it (for better or worse).

    Documentation does get written, though, and the reward (in many cases) is promotion of the program. Gnome needs documentation because it wants to (eventually) be THE desktop for all people (hacker or otherwise). The reward for them is a larger target audience. This same reward applies to anybody writing software with a non-technical audience, or with a project that requires documentation for some other reason. If there's a commercial incentive to write a word processor for Linux/etc, there's the same incentive to document it. Documentation is just another feature for a program and, just as any feature, it can attract and keep users if it's good.

  • The entire purpose of an "invariant section" is that the author maintains control. Even if not malicious, translations can be done poorly and that can cause some serious problems in expressing the original meaning. I wouldn't want you to take something I've written, translate it into German, and put my name on it.

    I don't see how this would cause problems for the LDP (or anybody). ??

  • Does anyone see any true sense to this clause? We still have to refer back to the original document in order to stick to the license, so I would imagine this would just make things more complicated for such projects as the LDP when they start moving towards more sophisticated language support.

    Yes, I see plenty of sense to that clause.

    Since there's not yet such a thing as a 100% correct translation automaton, and in fact human language (those in practical use anyway) is full of ambiguities, the author of a text is ultimately the best resource for determining the accuracy of a translation.

    (Being a legal document, the GDL focuses on the copyright owner of a text, rather than the original author, which allows the author to confer authority for determining accuracy of translations, among other things, to others.)

    With that in mind, the clause appears designed to allow contribution of a translation to a document by anyone in a modified redistribution, but not replacement of the original text as authorized by the copyright holder of sections of the work considered important ("invariant sections").

    (Of course, if the copyright holders give specific permission to provide such a replacement, that's allowed by the license -- though the GDL itself needn't specify that, it's a convenient way to express the idea that a copyright holder doing such a thing isn't considered to be violating the "spirit" of the GDL, I suppose.)

    As translations are contributed that are judged by the copyright holders to be correct, permissions can be given to provide them as replacements for, not just contributions in addition to, the original versions of invariant sections.

    Ditto the GDL itself. Until the copyright holder (the FSF) approves a given translation, someone may contribute their own, but (I would hope) the GDL does not permit that translation to represent itself as the authorized version, and requires it to point to the original English version as such. (I haven't looked at this version of the GDL yet; it's been months since I've reviewed an earlier version.)



  • Doing so would render the license itself useless!

    If I were to publish anything under the FDL, I would rely upon the fact that there is *one* FDL - the one I decided to use, not a modified version 'John Smith' came up with.

    You are suggesting to allow anybody to relicense the work of others - which is unacceptable. If I wanted to do that, I'd put the document in the Public Domain. The FDL is about protecting the intellectual property of the author, and therefore must not be modified in its basic sense.
  • Right. The GDL is a specific ste of rules, but underneath it all there is is a copyrighted document. So things like fair use of excerpts still apply.

    The lecturer with 115 students doesn't have to give out floppies - he/she can make them available on request. Better still he/she can put the source ("transparent copy") on a website (this is the 21st century you know!), that way everyone gets the benefit of the new comments.

  • It also needs to define "compilation copyright" - what is it?

    It's a copyright on a particular arrangement, or set, of things, as distinct from the copyrights on those things. I don't know offhand how supported this concept is by actual legislation, but it's apparently considered effectively supported by that and/or by precedent set as the result of litigation.

    So, in theory at least, someone can copyright a particular combination of Open Source packages as they distribute them on their CD, even if they own none of the copyrights on those underlying packages.

    Think of the list of those packages as itself a copyrightable plaintext file, so anyone reproducing that list -- whether as an identical text file, or as the "translation" of it represented by "ls -1" on a directory containing the packages -- could be considered in violation of that copyright, unless they could show independent creation.

  • PostScript varies in its transparency, and the PostScript used to describe a documentation will probably be generated by software (instead of handcoded) and will be opaque.

    The PostScript I handcode is easily understood, but since it's just to make tape and CD covers, it's very basic, a bunch of lineto's, fonts and shows. For example:

    %!PS
    0 setgray
    1.5 setlinewidth
    72 72 moveto
    436 72 lineto
    436 416 lineto
    72 416 lineto
    72 72 lineto
    stroke
    /Americana findfont 18 scalefont setfont
    108 382 moveto
    (Grateful Dead) show
    108 358 moveto
    (11/11/73 Ip IIp) show
    /Americana findfont 12 scalefont setfont
    120 334 moveto
    (Ip) show
    108 318 moveto
    (Weather Report Suite Prelude>) show
    108 302 moveto
    (Weather Report Suite Part 1>) show
    108 286 moveto
    (Let It Grow) show
    120 270 moveto
    (IIp) show
    108 254 moveto
    (Noodling>) show
    108 238 moveto
    (Dark Star>) show
    108 222 moveto
    (Mind Left Body Jam>) show
    108 206 moveto
    (Eyes of the World>) show
    108 190 moveto
    (China Doll) show
    showpage

    You don't even need to know PostScript to get the gist of what I'm doing.

    At the other end of the readability scale are the desktop publishing packages. In PostScript I've seen from Frame (IIRC), each letter was individually placed, and most of the PostScript commands were redefined, so instead of something nearly transparent like:

    108 238 moveto
    (Dark Star>) show

    You would get something like the following (I don't want to bother finding a copy of Frame to verify):

    108 238 mt
    (D) sh
    109 238 mt
    (a) sh
    110 238 mt
    (r) sh
    111 238 mt
    (k) sh

    and so on, and so on. I think the reason they call out each letter individually is for letter by letter placement, Frame decides the typography instead of the PostScript interpreter of the printer.

    I guess I can understand the GPL requirements now, most desktop publishers generate opaque PostScript.

    George
  • by Jonas Öberg ( 19456 ) <jonas@gnu.org> on Friday March 10, 2000 @05:16AM (#1212664) Homepage
    I didn't think I was going to need proof. But if you so desperately want it, this is the message that he sent to me and the other GNU webmasters.

    From: Richard Stallman
    Subject: doc license
    To: webmasters
    Date: Fri, 10 Mar 2000 02:17:51 -0700 (MST)

    Please do not put up the doc license yet.
    A few last minute details have come up.

  • Why couldn't they put the FDL on the FDL?!

    Another poster explained that this is necessary to disallow a recipient simply changing the GDL (FDL?) in a redistribution of someone else's work. Kinda like making it explicitly invariant.

    Keep in mind the GPL isn't GPL'ed either. And, yes, people have occasionally wondered why not over the years. The answers are basically the same: both licenses are designed to grant blanket permission to change both the style and the substance of the works distributed under those licenses, but, to do that, the licenses themselves must not be allowed to be substantively changed. Disallowing any changes is the surest way to achieve that.

    This is kinda like the concept of "human rights". No matter how much anyone talks about them, there's one incontrovertible fact as long as more than one human exists: almost every such right requires the ability to suspend that right in specific instances to assure them generally.

    As an example: the right to not be physically assaulted must be suspendable in instances where person A physically assaults person B, and will not stop until person B is long dead or person C (for "Cop" ;-) physically assaults person A in order to stop it. Otherwise that "right" is unenforceable; or, if there's no such thing as such assault, there's no need to state or even discuss it in the first place.

    (Of course, if someone can come up with a way for C to stop A in a way that'd be considered perfectly legit under any other circumstances -- i.e. not prohibited by virtue of claiming A's "rights" -- that's great. I can't think of a way offhand, and tend to suspect that's because such things are well-neigh impossible, as is, by applying suitable logic, the notion that any human government or system can secure for the people rights, liberties, or happiness they cannot secure for themselves.)

  • Postscript is not transparent? That depends.

    Ditto for object files, executable files, etc., though not quite as much generally.

    But, in theory, a Linux i386 executable can be created that, aside from some initialization code, looks as much like plaintext in expressing the program's logic (e.g. it could be Java code) as can similar PostScript code with similar initialization code.

    If you're looking for a 100% reliable way to automatically determine whether a particular form is "opaque" vs. "transparent", you'll no more find it than you'll find one that distinguishes between "source code" a la the GPL and the alternatives.

    That sort of thing is left up to humans to assess, in courts of law, for legal issues like this.

  • You never heard of any of the 'great' writers in history, not even one?
    People who write good are usually good rememberd. Maybe isn't as much the case for just documentation but someone who writes good documentation will also get known!


    Okay then, name five great documentation writers.

    Name five great programmers.

    Which list came quicker?

    George

  • ...Aren't things posted publically public domain unless stated so? ...
    No, IANAL, but:

    Works are automatically copyright to their authors as soon as they are "fixed in tangible form", unless

    1. the author is the government; or
    2. there is an explicit and written declaration that they are in the public domain.

    The author is the "obvious" one (the person composing the work), unless it is a "work for hire", which means that either

    1. it was specifically commissioned in writing; or
    2. its creation was part of one's normal work-tasks for one's employer.

    For further info, you can read the Copyright Act (as well as the entire US Code and lots of other stuff) at Cornell's Legal Information Institute, URL http://fatty.law.cornell.edu/ .

    META: Why is the link getting stripped out? Has something changed, or am I doing something wrong here?

  • ...Version 1.0 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation...

    I've always found this a bit odd with the GPL, and now the FDL. What happens if an item in the license changes, which the author/coder no longer agrees with?
  • The very cool thing (at least from my perspective!) is that some of the phrasing in there is mine. Originally, RMS had it worded as "SGML or XML," but that leaves things open to abuse if the DTD isn't disclosed. (Think "Word 2000, XML Version.")

    At any rate, the point to "compilation copyright" and the "title page" stuff is that the goal is to provide a way of combining several requirements, including:

    • Providing authors with some right to acknowledgement of their authorship
    • Providing an ability to modify documents, but requiring some attribution of changes
    • Some reasonable ways to include "GDLed" documents with non-GDLed documents to create a collection

    The net result can't be completely "clean."

    As for "compilation copyright," the point of that is that a collection of documents can be copyrighted even if the components aren't. For instance, a phone book consists largely of a list of names of people and their phone numbers. The individual components aren't copyrighted, but the collection or "compilation" of them is.

    In the same way, William Shakespeare's works are long out of copyright, but if I make a book that includes the plays along with some of my own commentary, the collection may become copyrighted, and you can only make copies at my sufferance.

    The relevance is that there are vendors that put together collections of things like HOWTOs, and the GDL needs to have some rules to indicate how it interacts with the needs of such "collections.."

  • What the hell was the moderator smoking when he marked this 'offtopic'? This is the GNU webmaster, and he is telling the truth; just go and look.
  • Larry Wall
    Don Knuth
    RMS
    Brian Kernighan
    Denis Ritchie

    Hmm... wait a minute, it's the same list.

  • by Christopher B. Brown ( 1267 ) <cbbrowne@gmail.com> on Friday March 10, 2000 @05:57AM (#1212673) Homepage
    Yes, it's a bit vague. It's probably not enforceable from the perspective of a court of law.

    The other problem is that there are all sorts of possible pathological cases.

    For instance, Postscript is described as an "Opaque" format, but supposing someone follows the dictums of TINYDICT, [demon.co.uk] and writes their documents in raw Postscript, then despite the fact that Postscript is usually considered "Opaque," it is, in fact, the "Transparent" form.

    That's probably the most pathological (and perverse-sounding) case, and is one that I brought up in some discussions on the license last year.

    HTML is a necessarily ambiguous form.

    • Many people do write documentation directly in HTML.

      In such a case, HTML is the "most transparent form available."

    • On the other hand, if I write documentation using DocBook/SGML, [docbook.org] and generate HTML from that, the "transparent" form is quite clearly DocBook.

    In practice, I don't think this will be a big problem. After all, am I likely to sue someone for releasing "freely," under the "GDL," some documentation in a form that I don't much like? I think not...

  • There have been several good follow-ups to this already, but there is one point I would like to make:
    2. Private use. Some guy wants to take a whole GDL document, modify it with his comments and give it to the 115 people in his lecture class. Does he also have to give them floppies since the distribution is > 100?
    This is not private use by any stretch of the imagination. If you want to hand out copies on that scale, you'll have to hand out transparent ones as well.
  • What if a print magazine is doing an article on Widgets, and wants to quote two paragraphs from the GDL'd Widgets Manual. Is it possible? Does the Magazine have to GDL itself? GDL that article? Since the magazine has a circulation of >100 does that have an impact?
    Not in my (non-lawyerly) opinion. Such a quote in a review would be covered under the "fair use doctrine" regardless of which license the original text was distributed under.

    Some guy wants to take a whole GDL document, modify it with his comments and give it to the 115 people in his lecture class. Does he also have to give them floppies since the distribution is > 100?
    Would it be legal for him to photocopy the entire contents of a (proprietary) book and hand them out? No. If he distributes the GDLed document in that kind of quantity, he needs to go to the awful, terrible difficulty of mirroring it on his Web site and handing out the URL along with the document.

    Some guy is writing a GDL'd document and wants to include a longish section of a non-GDL'd document. Is this illegal, as it would be with code under GPL?
    If you are writing a document to release under GDL, you may include in it anything you could legally include in a document for publication. Without the permission of the author of the included section, you would be restricted to quoting for "fair use" purposes and in "fair use" lengths. With the permission of that author, you can do whatever s/he allows you to.

    Suppose I want to quote a large chunk of text that is genuinely public domain. Does the license now infect that text in other places?
    No. Nothing can be taken out of the public domain. However, you have no obligation to tell your readers that that chunk of text is in the public domain. If someone used it elsewhere under a proprietary license and you sued them, you would lose if they could prove it was in the public domain before you printed it.

    I hope this clears things up a bit.

  • heh-heh, you got me, though I think if I had asked for 8 programmers and 8 documentation writers, you would have been stumped.

    How about this, name 3 people who got fame and renown from primarily programming, and 3 people who got fame and renown from primarily writing documentation.

    Thanks,

    George
  • As soon as the bugs get worked out. A few comments/questions:




    If the Document specifies that a particular numbered version of this License "or any later version" applies to it, you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that specified version or of any later version that has been published (not as a draft) by the Free Software Foundation. If the Document does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published (not as a draft) by the Free Software Foundation.


    • I do not not neccisarily want to agree with future versions of the license. Does this mean that I could write ...under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.0, with the Invariant Sections...?

    • Is it just me or does everyone feel like a lawyer trying to figure out what Invariant Sections and Transparant vs. Opaque are? grin

  • I actually made this post with my tongue firmly in my cheek, but I guess I forgot a smiley :-)

    However, I think you are wrong. The FDL could very well be posted under itself due to the modification clause, point A:

    A. Use in the Title Page (and on the covers, if any) a title distinct from that of the Document, and from those of previous versions (which should, if there were any, be listed in the History section of the Document). You may use the same title as a previous version if the original publisher of that version gives permission.

    So either the derived licence can not be called the FDL, or you have received permission from the original author, in which case the content cannot have changed distinctively.

    Cheers,
    Lars
    __

  • by georgeha ( 43752 ) on Friday March 10, 2000 @07:04AM (#1212682) Homepage
    Well, I just had my first documentation book published (not counting inhouse software manuals), the Samba Administrator's Handbook, ISBN 0-7645-4636-8) so I thought I'd make a few comments from an author's viewpoint.

    I'd really like to see the incentive model for writing free documentation. Programmers do free software for fun and fame. That's their compensation. Writing documentation, however, is not fun, and also doesn't give one any brownie points in the community. Writing documentation is just plain hard work. What's the compensation for that work?

    Writing is work, boring and tedious, I spent a lot of nights writing when I'd have rather been snuggling with my honey, playing with daughter, building Lego, surfing the web or even configuring my Linux boxes.

    I don't think I've gotten any brownie points in the community, though the 5 star review on Amazon was nice. I haven't gotten any book related email either, and I'm not hard to track down (the joy of having a unique last name).

    Financially I've done alright though, the advance helped me buy my house.

    Also, book writing (even large books) is still a one-person show (as opposite to software writing).

    Or a two or three person show, but I get your gist. You don't have 20 member teams writing books.

    And if the book you write is good, you can easily make some money out of it. So what is the incentive to give it away? You get credit for software by the community. As a documentation writer, no one even remembers your name in the community. So going to a traditional publisher seems a more natural way for one, in terms of money, as well as fame. And if you don't trust traditional publishers (or don't find one), you can still publish your work yourself.

    I could publish any book myself I wanted to, but the printing costs would probably astronomical (unless I used the production printers at work), the distribution costs would be astronomical, and forget getting my books to a brick and mortar bookstore, at the moment, if you want a wide audience for a dead tree book, you probably need to work with a publisher.

    Once you do work with a publisher, you can't just write any book you want to. You need to sell your concept to them, submit sample chapters, compromise on what they want to publish, it becomes more of a collaborative effort than one person blindly dumping 400 pages of Word files to the publisher.

    It was an interesting time, certainly an ego trip to see my name on Amazon, but I don't think I would do it again for free, the non-financial rewards wouldn't justify all the time and effort.

    George
  • But if you do the above, the online documentation gets maintained and the dead tree version does not. At some point you need to re-synch. But what pair of licenses allows that?

    Personally I think that it would be good to create some sort of arrangement where the exact text and arrangement of a document may or may not be free, but it and all its derivatives must allow the technical information in them to be free to use in any other document using either of the pair of licenses. IOW O'Reilly or anyone else can come out with clearly differentiated books, but the information contained in such has to be available as free documentation.


    I agree. The important thing to remember here is that granting the right to redistribute the document under the GNU Free Documentation License [gnu.org], or the Open Content License [opencontent.org], or the Open Publication License [opencontent.org] is granting certain rights to anyone who wants them. It does not prohibit the author from making the text, or a derivative of it, available to a publisher under different terms. I see no reason why a publisher can't be offered special terms by the author that will make the document attractive enough to merit publishing it without giving up the open distribution of the document electronically. I suspect that we are going to find this to be a more contentious issue than free software licenses though.
  • This seems to mesh well with RMS's criticism of companies like O'Reilly & Associates.

    Basically, Stallman has criticized the commercial publishers who write and sell manuals for GNU software, because they "scratch the itch" for people willing to pay the bux for their books, but in effect remove the incentive to write good free documentation and manuals for the Free Software.

    On the other hand, the FSF tries to generate income by selling books like Stallman's GNU Emacs manual, which is rather pricey.

    Interesting stuff for a discussion, glad to see it on /.
  • Now, what is the FSF model of making money from writing documentation?
    I would imagine that it would be quite similar in some respects to the way to make money writing GPLd code.

    Consider this: Many companies (I don't think I need to name Red Hat here) pay people to write code that's to be released under the GPL. It doesn't seem too unreasonable to me to assume that they would pay people to write the free documentation (under the FDL) the same way that they pay people to write free software. It's rather complementary, IMO.

    Something else: What about documentation that's been languishing for several revisions of the software? If this license becomes widely used (which I suspect it will, eventually, because of the reputation of RMS), then it would be no problem to just hire somebody to modify the documentation, much the same way as, say, ESR [tuxedo.org] became the maintainer of popclient. (In fact, you wouldn't need any permission; ESR sought this from popclient's previous maintainer out of tact.) This could also simplify matters for the LDP [linuxdoc.org] if they decide to standardize on this license (much as they standardize on the file formats they accept).

    You give the documentation away, and you make money by...? By what? Support of the documentation? That is, you get paid for adapting, modifying, and or re-writing the documentation? I don't think this works.
    {speculation} I assume that one would be able to charge for distribution of free [gnu.org] documentation. I checked the license, though, and nothing is said about this (that I could find). Stallman being Stallman :), though, I suspect that this will be added. (I suspect that's why he says, "Don't use this license yet."){/speculation} This means, among other things, that one could have free documentation available online, and distribute if for a profit in dead-trees form. (Witness compilations of the LDP *HOWTOS.) There will be people who pay extra for this, and there will most likely always will be. O'Reilly published "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" [tuxedo.org] along with other writings by Eric Raymond in print form. I gotta say, although I like to be able to get the documentation gratis, there is a hell of a lot to be said for a book that you can take with you and won't run out of battery power.

    However, I don't know how this will fare up against other free-documentation licenses, such as the OPL [opencontent.org]. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

    --

  • by Tassach ( 137772 ) on Friday March 10, 2000 @07:31AM (#1212687)
    First of all let me say that, for the most part, I support RMS's & the FSF's ideals and the concept that "information wants to be free." However, I see several potential problems with this license.

    The main problem with GPL'ed software in general is the question "how can I make a living writing free software." Companies like Red Hat, Caldera, and the rest of the Linux start-ups answer this question by providing technical support for a fee. However, not all programs lend themselves to this economic model. While it may be appropriate for complex software like operating systems and server programs, it is not nearly as feasable for desktop applications -- particuarly if they are very intuitive and user-friendly. A program that's easy to use won't need much in terms of tech support.

    Besides providing support services, historically the only other significant way open-source programmers have been able to support themselves directly is to write & sell books. (ESR and Larry Wall spring to mind as examples of this model of compensation).

    As a programmer, I'd hate to think that after putting hundreds or thousands of hours of my time into writing an open-source program, the only way I could make any money would be thru banner ads and selling tee shirts and stuffed toys. If I wanted to sell souvineers for a living, I wouln't have busted my ass getting an engineering degree. When you pour your blood, sweat, and tears into somthing, you deserve to be rewarded for your effort. If ego gratification is enough of a reward for you, that's fine; but remember that even the most altrustic programmer still needs to provide for himself and his family.

    The problem with the free documentation licence is , like the GPL, it has a "viral" nature. Let's suppose I write program foo and release it under the GPL, then release a basic user's manual under the FDL. Because of the viral nature of the FDL, I could not then go write a book (foo In A Nutshell) that expands on the FDL'ed documentation. Strictly interpreted, even quoting a single line of FDL'ed text could render the entire new document FDL'ed. Even paraphrasing the original text might not be enough to get it out from under the FDL, given the translation clause.

    Look at the Declaration of Independence [loc.gov] : because it's in the public domain, anyone can publish a copy of the DoI without restriction. However, if I take the DoI and intersperse it with a line-by-line analysis of what it means, this derivitive work is fully copyrightable. However, if I did the same thing with a FDL'ed document, I would have to give up all rights to the new work, regardless of if I wanted to or not. I should have the freedom to decide how to assign my intellectual property rights.

    Tim O'Reilly has done some great things for the open-source community, has made a good bit of money doing it, and has helped many open-source programmers, and has given a lot back to the community. But even a publisher as open-minded at O'Riley & Assc. [ora.com] would have to think twice about publishing a book that could be copied & resold by anyone.


    "The axiom 'An honest man has nothing to fear from the police'

  • The distinction is blurred by the fact that many software tools can open and readily manipulate HTML documents, no matter how obfuscated they may be.

    I can, for example, save a webpage using Netscape, as a *.HTML file, then open it with Microsoft Word 2000 and change it. Then, of course, I can open it again with Netscape to read it. It could also be opened with Star Office, or GNU Emacs for futher editing.

    If it has to have been edited by a "Human" things become blurry fairly fast.

    Is the intent perhaps to view the HTML format as purely a derivative format, and to make a distinction between "source" documents (i.e. SGML source, or plaintext before markup) and "binary" documents (rendered HTML, Postscript, or PDF)?
  • This problem occurs with software, too. Code can be automatically obfuscated or pre-processed before distribution, so that it remains compilable but is not readable. The GPL uses a phrase something like "the preferred form for making modifications". I wonder why this was not used in the GDL?
  • They are allowed to specify a single version if they wish. The intent of the "or later" is to allow for bug fixes to the wording of the license, that do not change its spirit.
  • Let's suppose I write program foo and release it under the GPL, then release a basic user's manual under the FDL. Because of the viral nature of the FDL, I could not then go write a book (foo In A Nutshell) that expands on the FDL'ed documentation. Strictly interpreted, even quoting a single line of FDL'ed text could render the entire new document FDL'ed. Even paraphrasing the original text might not be enough to get it out from under the FDL, given the translation clause.
    No, that's not correct. If you are the copyright holder -- the original author, or someone to whom the original author has given or sold the copyright -- then you can re-license the work under any license you like. Placing a program under the GPL does not restrict you from later licensing it under (for instance) the Artistic License as well (as Wall & co. have done with Perl) -- similarly, placing a document under the GDL does not restrict you from later releasing it under other licenses, even proprietary ones.

    The exception would be if you accept GDLed contributions from others and include them in your document. If you write the "User's Guide to the Foobar System" and release it under GDL, and then I write some new sections for that document and give them to you under GDL for inclusion, then you cannot later re-license the whole document (your and my work together) under another license without my permission. (Similarly, Linus alone could not re-license the Linux kernel -- because it has lots of other people's work in it, and they submitted that work to Linus under the GPL.) This means that as the number of contributors to a GPL or GDL project gets larger, it gets much, much harder to re-license it -- and that's how it should be, to make sure nobody's work is made proprietary without his/her consent.

  • I actually met Richard Stallman once at the Linuxworld Expo in San Jose. I asked for his autograph on a flyer the GNU folks were distributing there, and guess what? He refused to give it to me, saying he would rather I *BUY* an Emacs manual, and let him sign that, so I would be supporting the GNU project. I was broke at the time, so I could not afford to do this, needless to say. My question is, does this new GDL mean that RMS intends to GDL all of his Emacs documentation? Does that mean I can get an Emacs manual for free by copying someone else's, and getting RMS to sign THAT???
  • You give the documentation away, and you make money by...?

    I think you're still allowed to collect minimum wage for stapling together the copies.

    Not sure on that, though.

  • The Linux Network Administrator's Guide by Olaf Kirch is freely copyable with a pseudo-GNU license. Since I have a book, they've at least made a little money on it.

    O'Reilly has stated before that they publish their books with the license that the author chooses. Yeah, I'm sure they've thought twice about publishing freely-copyable books in this manner, but that time is passed. I'm certain that O'Reilly would publish under the FDL unless they found some serious problems with the license (some of which you describe)

  • Well, I know that the GNU Emacs Manual is available online, in (opaque!) Postscript format. I can't recall where I found it, but I know I printed it out a few years ago.
  • My question is, does this new GDL mean that RMS intends to GDL all of his Emacs documentation? Does that mean I can get an Emacs manual for free by copying someone else's, and getting RMS to sign THAT???

    Or even more to the point, could I print verbatim copies of RMS's Emacs manual and sell you one for less than the FSF charges the original? As far as I can tell, this would be totally permissible under the new license. I wonder how happy RMS would be about signing knock-off copies of his book...

    It's a nice idea, but I don't think it will work in the real world, except for trivial (unsellable) documents.


    "The axiom 'An honest man has nothing to fear from the police'

  • Using 2 licenses is fine for a first edition, but the second edition should include corrections and additions submitted to the online documentation from third parties, that gets more complicated...

    Cheers,
    Ben
  • Using 2 licenses is fine for a first edition, but the second edition should include corrections and additions submitted to the online documentation from third parties, that gets more complicated...


    The Open Content [opencontent.org] web site contains an article [opencontent.org] discussing the differences between multiple developers contributing to a piece of software and multiple authors contributing to a document. They are soliciting additional contributions to the article. Your point illustrates the intersection of the problems they describe and the problems with dual licenses.

    Perhaps one way to encourage participation would be to have the principal author retain all rights to negotiate the specific license for print publication. However, stipulate that other than recovery of his costs, not including payment for time put in on the document since other people aren't being reimbursed for that, the author's take of the income from publishing it would go to a not for profit open source project, preferrably the one the documentation is for.
  • You can call Stallman a lot of lot of things, some of which I even might agree with (bone-headed comes to mind). However, he is about the least hypocritical person on this or any other known planet. While the FSF is selling the emacs manual (as well as emacs itself), it is freely available from this ftp site [leo.org] or any number of other GNU mirrors, and comes with the permission to copy and modify.

    Yes, you can I print verbatim copies of RMS's Emacs manual and sell it for less than the FSF charges for the original. However, RMS is of course free to sign or not sign any copy, depending on his fancy. In fact, what he did is quite common: Using your popularity to raise money for your favourite charity.

  • I feel very good about putting this book under an open content license, and I'm actively working on preparing more books that will have some kind of open content license. The industry is still in a very experimental phase, which is why the Using Samba license is something of a hodge-podge. But there will be more open books, and the company is backing me.

    Another poster astutely identified updates and new editions as difficult areas. I think the license is not the problem here; logistics are. Samba developers and O'Reilly are still working out these logistics. That's a different story.

    There was also a brief discussion of lots of related issues at the O'Reilly Web site:

    http://forums.oreilly.com/~publishing [oreilly.com]

  • So does the GNU Free documentation license use the GNU Free documentation license? We can have the world's first recursive license.

    P.S Ok, apparently it doesn't. bah.
  • Personally I think that it would be good to create some sort of arrangement where the exact text and arrangement of a document may or may not be free, but it and all its derivatives must allow the technical information in them to be free to use in any other document using either of the pair of licenses.

    Vanilla copyright law does that. Copyright covers the specific expression, but not the ideas. If you've got a copyrighted technical reference in front of you, you can't copy the exact wording, arrangement of information, and so on, but you can copy the technical information itself all you want. That may be plagiarism, if you fail to give the author credit and if your new book doesn't add clarity or value, but it doesn't violate the copyright to express technical facts in a new form.

  • The license seems to imply that a transparent format is one that can be easily modified by a writer - analogous to source.

    But looking at the list of suggested transparent formats, I see things like LaTeX and raw HTML. Does RMS seriously think most writers work directly in formatting languages instead of using document processors? Really, for practical purposes, a document distributed in M*cros*ft Word format is much more likely to be easily modifiable by a writer than one in LaTeX input.

    (Word may not be the best example, being unquestionably proprietary... but it's a common format and been reverse-engineered enough times that you don't need to patronize MS to read it. Or take RTF, which is also proprietary but whose definition is publicly available last I checked.)

    Maybe RMS finds it easier to type in formatting codes than to work in a document processor, but most writers don't. Many writers, in fact, can't. If the point of the transparent-format verbiage is to make sure documents are distributed in a form that writers can modify and improve, I think it's missing the target by a wide margin.
  • Seriously, this license is intended mainly for software documentation, not novels. If you're writing software manuals and you can't get your head around LaTeX, texinfo or simple HTML then you have no business being a technical writer. LaTeX is very straight forward, I managed to typeset my first document with complicated mathematical symbols (I'm a maths student) within less than an hour.

    Microsoft Word format is certainly proprietary, and if you don't know how much of a PITA it is to print, much less change, a reasonably complicated MSW document on a free os then you haven't tried. As RTF, I'm not at all that certain if it is proprietary in any real sense of the word, if the specification is publically available, but I'm no expert so I wouldn't pretend to give an authoritative answer.

  • If you're writing software manuals and you can't get your head around LaTeX, texinfo or simple HTML then you have no business being a technical writer.

    It's not a problem of being unable to "get your head around" formatting languages; it's a question of what's usable for revision and what isn't.

    When you revise an existing document, you generally don't want to be looking at formatting codes inline with the text while you're actually working on it; it makes it too hard to read, to see the organization, and to make easy sense of the information. Obviously you can read around the codes, if you're sufficiently motivated. You can read MS Word documents into a text editor and read around its formatting too, but no one sane would want to.

    Encouraging or requiring documentation to be in a form that's inaccessible to document-processing software works against the stated purpose of the license: to make the documentation easy to modify. If it's got formatting crap scattered throughout, the only practical way to deal with it is to delete the formatting crap, do your reading, reorganizing, and rewriting, then reformat the whole damn document. Either that, or you read it into a document processor that understands the formatting, do your reading etc., then more than likely have to reformat the result by hand.

    Few writers will bother, if this is the only way. And if few writers bother, a free documentation license isn't going to accomplish much, is it?

  • For some reason people like writing software but find documentation a chore.

    "People"? Who?

    I know people who like writing documentation but couldn't write code. We need to cultivate these people. Attitudes like "people like writing software but find documentation a chore" can only hurt us.

    I like writing code, and guess what? I like writing documentation too. (If any developers out there want someone to write docs, send me email. If I find your project interesting, I'd love to document it!)

  • Yes, I have a copy of the FSF's GNU Emacs manual.

    Sixth Edition, Version 18, March 1987.

    I wasn't meaning to attack the FSF for using the distribution of printed manuals as a fundraising activity. In fact, one of the ways I try to "pay" people who provide Free Software is by purchasing the books by the software authors. That means I have the Donald Knuth TeX books, Lamport's LaTeX book, the O'Reilly Perl books, etc.

    If your company uses Free Software products, it's a proper gesture on your part to requisition books like these, because it puts bread on the table of the developers.
  • Consider this: anything that a human wrote is likely to be at least somewhat comprehensible. Reading human-generated LaTeX would be far preferable to MS Word in a text editor. Since it was written by a human, they would have made at least some effort to keep things legible for their own benefit. LaTeX can be pretty hairy sometimes, but the information is usually easy enough to find/modify, even if the formatting isn't. In any case, you can look at the electonically rendered (by xdvi for LaTeX, and by a browser for HTML), and then find the words that interest you in the source with a text editor.

    (my bias: I use LaTeX for all my stuff that I write to be printed out.)
    #define X(x,y) x##y
  • Um... what do you mean by 'fame and renown' in this context? The wider world where fame and renown happens has probably never even heard of half the 'famous' people.

    Famous for documentation:

    Laura Lemay (ghod help us)
    Don Knuth
    Stevens
    ESR (I don't really want to count Ms Lemay)

    Bugger, just realised that I forgot John Lions. And Rob Pike. And the Gang of Four. And Andy Tanenbaum (wrong about Linux perhaps, but his book on networking was superb). And Don Libes. And...

    For code:

    Larry Wall
    Ken Thompson
    Dennis Ritchie (though it could be argued that most of his 'wider' fame came because of k&r.)

    Note that, with the possible exception of Ken, the programmers have all written good documentation in their time; if you don't document your code who is going to want to use it? About the only example of really widely used code with lousy documentation I can think of is sendmail in its earlier incarnations.
  • The "formatting codes" you're talking about in a typical technical document are much easier to work with than the brain-dead formatting you'll see in a typical Word document. While it is POSSIBLE to write good documents (using style, auto-numbering and proper section division techniques) in Word, it is very much more difficult than it should be, and so most people don't bother -- even technical writers. The technical review of some student work I did the other day found that they had multiple section 9.4.12s -- because they couldn't get Word to number things properly, so they typed the numbers by hand. This causes mayhem in the editing cycle. Now compare LaTeX's clean section numbering mechanism -- I've never seen anyone do it manually because the built-ins are much easier. Watch tech doc tools build an Index and compare it to the so-called "index" and contents pages from Word. Night and Day. So, whilst it's nice to have AbiWord or KWord (well, KWord is more FrameMaker than Word) for brief memos and two page layouts, LaTeX wins hands down for serious technical docs. Can anyone comment on the suitability of LyX for this task (and how its output meets the requirements of this new license)?
  • RMS forwarded this response and requested it be posted... One of the comments about the GNU Free Documentation License cited the publications of O'Reilly Associates as an example of contribution to the "open source" community, and argued that the GFDL is not designed to encourage publication of more such non-free manuals. That hits the nail on the head. O'Reilly Associates provides a conspicuous example of doing work that could have contributed to the free software community, but then refusing to contribute it. Those manuals have been made non-free, and withheld from our community, through licenses that are unacceptably restrictive. The whole point of the GFDL is to encourage publication of free manuals instead of additional non-free manuals. Documentation is an essential part of any software package. The documentation in a free software package needs to be free also; it needs to respect the users' freedom just as the software does. A non-free manual, like a non-free program, can be well written in an abstract sense. But to people who value their freedom, non-free documentation is as useless and as worthless as a non-free program. See http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-doc.html for more explanation. Unfortunately, most O'Reilly Associates manuals are non-free, so they fall into that useless and worthless category. We need free replacements for them, just as we need free replacements for any "useful" non-free software packages; just as, in 1984, we needed a free replacement for Unix. O'Reilly Associates could now start publishing manuals using the GFDL. If they use this license, or another free license, their manuals will start contributing to the free software community. They are in a position to make a very important contribution, if they choose. But if they do not, we will get the job done anyway. Other commercial publishers are already publishing free manuals, and the GFDL should make it easier for all publishers to profitably do this. If some continue to write and publish non-free manuals, for whatever reasons, we in the Free World will carry on without their help, just as we carry on without the help of Adobe, Microsoft, Oracle, and Sun.

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